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I am a big fan of romance, especially historical romance. I’ve read everything Jane Austen ever wrote, seen Gone with the Wind countless times, and had to buy both When Harry Met Sally and An Affair to Remember (I mean, you can’t watch one without the other, right?) I know quite a few of my regular readers agree with me.
Today, though, I would like to talk seriously about a problem with romantic novels and movies.
A lot of things are romantic on paper or film. But real life does not work quite the same way. For example (warning: this post is full of spoilers):
- Gone With the Wind is a great story. Scarlett O’Hara is one sassy broad. But, in reality, there’s one word for a woman that cutthroat, and I’m too polite to say it. People who go through life playing the opposite sex against each other for their own amusement wind up dying alone and bitter.
- In Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is a dark, compelling figure. A bad boy, if you will. He’s someone you know you can make better, which is just what Catherine tried to do for him. In reality, this type of dysfunctional relationship is almost too painful to watch. It affects not only the couple themselves, but their children, spouses, friends and family. Everyone is collateral damage. And remember, Catherine died young and Heathcliff died of a broken heart after alienating everyone who ever loved him.
- Romeo and Juliet is one of the most romantic stories of all time. But in reality, two teenagers killed themselves because they could not be together. Think of the poor nurse, who found them, or their horrified parents afterwards. Not to mention the young lives needlessly cut short.
I was touched this week by this juxtaposition between romance and reality. How many of us have known a Scarlett, a Heathcliff, a Catherine, a Romeo or a Juliet? Or any other tragic-romantic figure? Or have you been one of these yourself? You don’t have to drink poison to be a Romeo or live through the Civil War to be a Scarlett. You just have to have made some romantic, yet dysfunctional choices in your life.
If you’ve been there, then you know what I’m talking about. It sounds so romantic to read about. But in reality, it’s not. It’s just terribly, terribly sad.
So which character are you? Or have you known any of these archetypes? Let me know in the comments below.